Monday, March 21, 2016

2016 NFL Draft Profile #37 - CJ Prosise, RB, Notre Dame

Oct 17, 2015; South Bend, IN, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish running back C.J. Prosise (20) is pursued by Southern California Trojans cornerback Adoree Jackson (2) and defensive end Greg Townsend Jr. (93) at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Kirby Lee
Oct 17, 2015; South Bend, IN, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish running back C.J. Prosise (20) is pursued by Southern California Trojans cornerback Adoree Jackson (2) and defensive end Greg Townsend Jr. (93) at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
I have never been a scout or a NFL General Manager, but I am willing to watch a ton of football. By watching about 200 snaps of each prospect, we can really get a feel for a player and then know what we are talking about a bit better. It is no exact science, but the NFL hasn't quite figured out drafting either, so we are going to do the best we can.To read more about the 2016 NFL Draft Project, Click Here.

(March 21 note: I think it is important this week to go a bit deeper on Running Backs - a position of need for the Cowboys.  I will be working on some guys who do not fit in the "Top 50", but rather 2nd, 3rd and 4thround ideas at this spot for a Dallas-specific study.  We miss a few guys who are not at spots of need for Dallas, but I can only get to so many.)
CJ Prosise, RB, Notre Dame - 6'0, 220 - Junior - #15
This year's Running Back crop is probably similar to last year's in that there are 2 clear top guys (in my humble opinion) with Elliott and Henry, but then another group that includes Devontae Booker, Kenneth Dixon, Paul Perkins, Jordan Howard, and CJ Prosise (perhaps a few others) that fall somewhere between #40-#120 overall.  These guys might all be quite capable in the right system and there are certainly many real strong running backs that have fallen in this range (Matt Forte #44, LeVeon Bell #48, LeSean McCoy #53, Ray Rice #55, Eddie Lacy #61, DeMarco Murray #71, Jamaal Charles #77, David Johnson #86, and Lamar Miller #97)   - but there are many more (we must not forget - 33 others during that span of 2008-15) that are taken here and never heard from again.  So, if you find 9 or 10 out of 42, that about hitting on 20-25%. 
Now, those are really nice picks.  So, a 20% hit rate is not inspiring.  This is likely why fans and media think of a top of the 4th (Cowboys have pick #101) round is not a very valuable pick while the NFL war-room disagrees.  But, this might explain why they are thinking they would rather consider #135 on Running Back if the odds are this poor.  Either way, this team needs better options in the backfield, in my opinion.
So let's examine this RB from Notre Dame that is getting plenty of buzz in draft season.  CJ Prosise was a slot receiver as a freshman and sophomore for the Irish.  Then, a year ago, he tried RB in spring football to give the offense some options.  As fate would have it, the starter was hurt in the opener, and Prosise came on to take over.  The next 2 months were pretty impressive as he knocked out 6.5 yards a carry and broke a ton of big runs.  Unfortunately, he also found the beating that RB gets is different than slot, and he dealt with a shoulder, a concussion, and finally a high ankle sprain that knocked him out of action altogether.  Then, he declared for the draft with only 9 full games at RB in his career.
What I liked:  He definitely catches your eye with juice to the edge and a highlight film that is impressive indeed.  When you look at the enclosed video clips, you will see that when he gets into space, he is a real terror. He has acceleration talent that is impossible to teach and you better keep him from getting to the 2nd level.  Add to that a background as a wide receiver and you will see his terrific at catching the ball out of the backfield and a real natural there with an advanced skill set for all of those other things you would like to see a RB do.  He runs physically and instinctively in traffic and is able to break an awful lot of tackles and get some extra yardage.  Surprisingly for a former WR, he also picks up blitzes with impressive ability and doesn't hurt you in pass protection.
What I did not like:  Well, this is where you need to remember that he has only been playing RB for a few months.  That said, I don't think I am quite the fan that the draft community is because he isn't very good between the tackles with vision and feel for getting something when the original path is not ideal.   He tip-toes when he is unsure of his path and that allows the defense more time and in the NFL that is not great.  He sort of looks exactly like a WR might look if you put him at RB in that he is great following lead blockers (like on end arounds) - most of his big runs have a pulling guard out front - and great heading out to the sideline.  This says to me he is more of a "change-up" back than a candidate to be a starter.  He also put the ball on the ground 5 times this season for a guy who did not have 200 touches.  That is problematic as well.
Summary and Potential Fit For the Cowboys:  Basically, he has the tools and he just needs the opportunity.  Or that is what will be said in the war-rooms as people advocate for him in their organization.  He has two things really working for him as we approach his draft day and the combination of juice - he ran a 4.48 and certainly looks the part when he is running away from players on these clips - and upside might get him put somewhere in that #40-#100 range. 
I have reservations because I see a lot of Felix Jones in him when you examine his frame (although he is a bit taller), speed skills, his work-rate in college, and his highlight film.  Prosise likely has more use as a RB because of his receiving skills and ability to pick up blitzes, but I do see him as a project that interests me at a certain price.  I am just not sure the price I would put on him is the price it would take to get to him on draft day.  I think this team needs more of a horse that is comfortable both inside and outside the tackles, and Prosise may grow into that, but projections at this position are always tricky.  This is especially true for a guy who was pretty banged up in his one college season at the position.  Nice player and perhaps fits right in as a 3rd Down back, but not ideal for what this team needs. 

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